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Thread: European tolerance fosters more intense strain of Islamic extremism than middle east

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    Elite Member Grimmlok's Avatar
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    Question European tolerance fosters more intense strain of Islamic extremism than middle east

    Feb. 11, 2006. 09:27 AM
    LYNDA HURST

    Toronto Star

    - The Islamic world is on fire and before you sits Fouad Ajami, one of America's most influential, if controversial, Arab intellectuals.

    Where to even begin?

    This week's frenzied riots ignited, seemingly, by the mocking Danish cartoons of Muhammad? Iran's banging on the nuclear door? The state of democracy in Iraq?

    Ajami, the director of Middle Eastern studies at Baltimore's Johns Hopkins University, sometime adviser to the Pentagon, oft-time media commentator and author of several politically significant books, including The Dream Palace of the Arabs, has an hour to spare before speaking at the sold-out Grano Speakers Series dinner.

    "I am your slave," he smiles. "Any subject you like."

    The ferocious reaction to the cartoons, then. It has horrified Westerners, rousing the ever-lurking fear that the clash of values and beliefs between the Islamic world and the West may truly be insurmountable.

    Gratuitously provocative the caricatures may have been, but nothing excuses the disproportionate retaliation, says Ajami, the "planned spontaneity" of the protests: "It has done enormous harm."

    He's been flooded with emails from Muslim friends, asking how the political extremists who pull the rioters' strings can be stopped from hijacking the faith again and again, hurting not themselves but the young they incite.

    "We've seen this film before," he says dryly, referring to the furor in 1989 over Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses.

    "The book-burning started in Bradford, England, then the turmoil spread to the Islamic world, to Iran, where the Ayatollah Khomeini hitched a ride on the coattails of the activists in England and issued the fatwa (demanding Rushdie's execution)."

    The same trajectory occurred with the cartoons, he says. This week's rioting originated with Muslims in Denmark, who dispatched agitators to the Arab world to whip up a response when the drawings first appeared last fall.

    When other European newspapers reprinted them, the manipulated anger was at full throttle and ready to hit the streets: "There was no spontaneity to what happened, definitely not in Syria and Lebanon."

    But it started in Europe, he adds emphatically.

    The Islamic concept of bilad al-kufr, or "lands of unbelief," means that radical Islamist clerics living in the "unbelieving" West feel no compunction about agitating against non-Muslims.

    "These clerics have fled the fire in Islamic lands and set up shop in Europe. But they brought the fire with them."

    Many live off the generosity of the welfare state because they believe it's okay to pilfer from infidels, he says. "They prey on the gullibility of young Muslims, the `nowhere men,' as I call them, children of Islam who often can't even speak Arabic."

    Ajami has watched thousands of hours of Al-Jazeera TV, particularly its call-in shows, and says most of the militant calls come from Muslims in Europe — "Eurabia," as he's called it — not the Middle East.

    "Let's be honest with ourselves. There has been a lot of running room for these people in liberal, multicultural states, where there is the post-modern idea that all forms of expression are permissible. Not for nothing is London called Londonistan. Britain's tolerance has been tailor-made for these people."

    One challenge of living in a liberal society is the "willingness to be offended," says Ajami, a 60-year-old Lebanese-born, secularized Muslim who immigrated to the United States at 18. Looking to be offended is different.

    "These communities have raw nerves," he says. "They are in the West, but not of the West. They're not part of the Arab world either. There are no life chances for them there. You can see that in the diligence with which they fight deportation."

    The tragic irony, he adds, is that the mostly young cartoon rioters attacked the embassies and consulates where they'd normally be seeking visas to get out of the Mideast and into the West.

    For Ajami, the protests, coming on top of November's riots by disaffected young Muslims in France, July's bombings in London by born-in-Britain terrorists, and the murder the year before, of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh by a radical Islamist, all point to one bleak conclusion: "The dream of assimilation, of multiculturalism, is dead."

    Another lost vision to place beside the "modernist dream" that flourished among intellectuals in the Arab world in the 1920s and '30s, he says. It was pushed aside after the Iranian revolution in 1979, when huge numbers of people began flooding into the cities.

    "They were newly lettered, half-educated, newly urbanized. Their numbers overwhelmed any possibility of modernity, and out of the suburbs they lived in came the militants. At the heart of everything has been this crisis of demography." Europe has to understand the similar "tyranny of demography" now rising within its borders, he says. European birthrates are going down, Muslim rates rising up: "There is the recipe for an explosion."

    Is there any solution? He pauses for a moment, then says: "Countries have to have cultural integrity. Immigration is fine, but newcomers have to accept the rules of the host society. You cannot be Lebanese and go to Australia and dictate what the rules of the beach should be, as recently happened. You have to accept the norms and doctrines that define the West."

    Those with raw nerves who politicize everything somehow have to be taught "the world doesn't bend to their will."

    Ajami's blunt talk, coupled with his controversial support of the Iraq war — he actively advised the Pentagon — has appalled many Arab Americans and not a few of his fellow academics.

    His critics say he's bought wholesale into the current administration's neo-conservative, might-is-right mindset, so bedazzled is he by his friendships with the likes of U.S. Vice-President Dick Cheney and former defence secretary Paul Wolfowitz. It was Ajami who Cheney infamously quoted before the invasion, saying U.S. troops would be greeted with cheers of joy when their tanks rolled into Baghdad. Not quite.

    In 2003, the left-wing journal, The Nation, described him thus: "A leftist in the 1970s, a Shiite nationalist in the 1980s, an apologist for the Saudis in the 1990s, a critic-turned-lover of Israel, a skeptic-turned-enthusiast of American empire, he has observed no consistent principle in his career other than deference to power."

    Ajami considers himself a pragmatist and realist. In 2004, however, he appeared to regret his high-profile stance on the war, writing that Iraq was not going to be "America's showcase" in the Arab-Muslim world: "In its modern history, Iraq has not been kind or gentle to its people. Perhaps it was folly to think that it was under any obligation to be kinder to strangers."

    But now, newly returned from his sixth trip to Iraq since the invasion, he is once again convinced that, despite the unceasing insurgent attacks, deep down, the Iraqis are grateful to the United States, "but the gratitude will take 10 years to come to the surface."

    To Ajami, the only folly of the U.S. was to leave Saddam Hussein in place after the first Persian Gulf War, a monumental mistake that led to the "cruel and pathetic" sanctions of the 1990s. But George H.W. Bush and then-defence secretary Cheney genuinely "believed a palace coup would take him out. I know that was the case," he says vehemently.

    The recent visit to Iraq renewed his optimism and gave him the final touches to his new book, due out in August. Shia Muslims and Kurds are happy with the recent elections, the first small step toward democracy, he says. What's more, Iraq's Sunni insurgents are beginning to split apart from outside agitators, or so it appeared to him.

    Most Iraqis realize they've been given "the great gift of liberty," he says. "A new dawn, albeit a painful one."

    Any more "new dawns" on Washington's horizons? "Nobody is going to sack any other regimes," he says laughing, as though the idea is preposterous.

    What about Iran? It was put on notice in 2001 in U.S. President George W. Bush's famous "axis of evil" speech, but continues to push ahead, it's now widely accepted, on the development of prohibited nuclear weapons.

    He is unexpectedly sanguine: "At the end of this dance, we'll end up with a nuclear-armed Iran. Room will be made for it in the nuclear club. Israel is in, Pakistan is in — which was the big mistake — so why not Iran?"

    But now it's time to leave for Grano, which is just as well, as a table lamp has shorted-out and before an electrician arrives to sort things out, the hotel room fills with smoke.

    But it doesn't catch on fire. And it doesn't faze Ajami, not for a moment.
    I am from the American CIA and I have a radio in my head. I am going to kill you.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: European tolerance fosters more intense strain of Islamic extremism than middle east

    I don't take this guy seriously.He is an Arab neocon lover.This killed it right here for me....
    His critics say he's bought wholesale into the current administration's neo-conservative, might-is-right mindset, so bedazzled is he by his friendships with the likes of U.S. Vice-President Dick Cheney and former defence secretary Paul Wolfowitz. It was Ajami who Cheney infamously quoted before the invasion, saying U.S. troops would be greeted with cheers of joy when their tanks rolled into Baghdad. Not quite.

    In 2003, the left-wing journal, The Nation, described him thus:"A leftist in the 1970s, a Shiite nationalist in the 1980s, an apologist for the Saudis in the 1990s, a critic-turned-lover of Israel, a skeptic-turned-enthusiast of American empire, he has observed no consistent principle in his career other than deference to power."
    Any friend of Cheney's is a no-no in my book. I disagree with a lot of his political views,especially about Iraq. It is clear he is quite biased and has an agenda.

    He seems to be switching sides all the time.

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